Ten years ago, Laura Pierson answered a want ad for a ticket-checker at the Cypress Mountain Ski Resort. She had no idea that taking the job would evolve into the start of a successful career doing work that she loves.
An avid skier and snowboarder, Laura had enjoyed Cypress Mountain for years. Back from a two-year stint teaching English overseas, working at the resort seemed a clear choice for her outgoing personality.
When she started, she “didn’t know the effort behind-the-scenes, how much each person does.” She discovered that running Cypress Mountain “is a huge collaboration,” and learned by doing. After a year on the job, they offered her a role as supervisor in ticket checking. Two years later, she became supervisor of the ticket office, overseeing ticket sales to guests, as well as hiring, scheduling and training staff.
Her work keeps evolving. Currently Laura manages the ticket office and guest services. During pre-season she keeps in touch with different departments, stays current about staffing requirements and acquires staff where needed. Once the season starts, she shifts her focus from staff to guests and ensures that the ticket office runs smoothly. Guest services focuses on taking care of the needs of guests, such as processing season passes during pre-season.
“It’s a joy to get up each morning and go to work,” Laura says. She attributes her success in part because she adapts easily to change. “Because we are a weather-dependent organization, you have to be able to adapt really easily.” She advocates a commitment to guests: “All of us managers have to become frontline service,” she says. “We need to keep in touch with front line staff and with what the guest wants.”
Passionate about her work, Laura was delighted when she learned that Cypress Mountain would host the 2010 Olympic freestyle skiing and snowboarding events. She relishes the challenges, even when things are tough. “It’s getting harder to recruit new staff,” she says. “I think it’s an employees market because they can pick and choose what they want to do.”
An advocate of doing work you love, Laura advises those interested in a career in tourism to “research the whole industry. Most importantly, do something you want to do. Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom and work your way up.” While formal education and training can help, there’s no substitute for experience. Above all, love what you do.